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Story posted: Monday, 25th March 1991

Nearly there!
Story courtesy of
Remarkable Rovers, just 90 minutes away from Wembley, take a two-goal lead to Sussex on Saturday with jovial manager Frank Northwood dismissing any ideas that Gresley will be going to defend.
The Moatmen smashed their way to a 3-1 win over Littlehampton Town in the first leg of their FA Vase semi-final – just the right result to give them a useful cushion as they face the Sussex County League side on their own ground.

But it’s not enough for Gresley to think the job’s already done.

Northwood, a smile on his face and a pint in his hand, declared afterwards: “Every side I’ve run could score goals. We’re going down there to score some more.

“We’ll be looking forward again. If they throw everything at us, I think they will leave the door open at the back.

“I feel we can score another couple next week – and I don’t know how many they’ve got to score if we get a couple.”

By my reckoning, Littlehampton would then have to notch four to take the game into extra time, five to win it. And I can’t see Gresley conceding five if the defence plays anything like it did at the Moat Ground.

Littlehampton had a tremendous spell at the start of the second half and really put Rovers under pressure.

Steve Astley was totally fired up, Gil Land hardly put a foot wrong as he was determined to pay a return visit to Wembley, John Barry did just as good a job defending as he had done in the first half attacking down the right and Scott Elliott did a superb marking job on Town’s dangerman Paul Bennett.

And whenever Littlehampton did break through, goalkeeper Bob Aston came to the rescue, his agility and presence inspiring confidence in his team mates.

Two-goal Kieron Smith was the hero at the other end, netting his 24th goal of the season as early as the sixth minute to calm those quivering nerve ends and putting Rovers three up in the 83rd minute with a looping header from substitute Steve Adcock’s centre.

That was a masterly substitution, Adcock replacing Carl Rathbone who was tired in his comeback game after injury.

Littlehampton immediately snatched one back, hitting Gresley as they relaxed, thinking it was all over.

An unsavoury incident followed, when visiting supporters ran onto the pitch to celebrate. One so-called fan, who it turned out was not from Sussex, allegedly headbutted Elliott and decked him before being marched away by the police.

However, it should not deflect from a wonderful afternoon’s entertainment by two totally committed teams which enthralled the 1,982 crowd.

“It was a shame we couldn’t have held it at 3-0 but no team dominates a game for 90 minutes,” said Smith. “We had a very good first half and could have gone in 4-0 up. Paul Acklam had an overhead kick stopped on the line and they cleared another one off the line with about 30 seconds left.”

The Marigolds, as Littlehampton are known, must have wished they’d stayed at home to do the washing up, such was their misfortune in the first 45 minutes.

Full back Adie Skietes sliced a wicked, hard, low cross from Neil Lovell into his own net and goal keeper Nickie Philips was given a torrid time.

“Frank said we should get a few crosses in because the keeper was a bit dodgy and he did drop a few,” said Smith. “To tell you the truth, I thought the third goal had killed the game. We would have been very happy with 3-0 but they came back and pinched one, so it puts that bit of doubt at the back of your mind whether you can go all the way.

“Next week we know we’ve got to put our act together, defend and take the end to them. I think the lead will be enough. Before the game, if anyone had said we were going to win 3-1, we would have settled for that.”

So Gresley’s biggest game for 60 years – they met York City in the FA Cup back in 1931 – ended in triumph.

Littlehampton had done their homework, their management making two trips to size up the Moatmen the week before the first leg. But Gresley prepared just as thoroughly and scout Kenny Blair again did the business, letting Rovers know exactly what they would be up against.

Armed with the knowledge of how the Marigolds will play at home and with a two-goal lead, Gresley will be brimming with confidence this weekend.
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League Position
  Team P GD Pts
10 Highgate United 29 -3 38
11 South Normanton Athletic 26 0 37
12 Worcester City 26 11 36
13 AFC Wulfunians 31 -6 36
14 Coventry Sphinx 25 -19 34
15 Tividale 23 -4 27
16 Haughmond 29 -29 26
17 Racing Club Warwick 24 -29 24
18 Lye Town 28 -31 18
19 Gresley 26 -22 16
20 Selston 25 -38 13

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